“In a real sense Carnival is a Catholic thing and in its purest sense expresses the joie de vivre which is part and parcel of true Christian living. It is not by accident that in the gospels there are references to wedding feasts.”
As Fr. Joseph Harris, Vicar for Priests and parish priest of St Ann’s, points out in his article “The Catholic Church and Carnival” there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye at first glance. Fr. Harris refers to “carnival” in the broad sense of a festive season, a Catholic tradition that precedes Lent when Christians recall the gospel account of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness.
The tradition of carnival has evolved through the centuries, a long and rich journey encompassing customs passed down from generation to generation, culture to culture. Ancient Greek and Roman festivals. The rich pageantry of medieval folk celebrations. Carnival de Rio. Mardi Gras. The list goes on. Local carnivals emerged to reflect the unique geographic flavor and demographic of the hosting parish. Tampa Bay has many. In the upcoming weeks, two Tampa Bay parishes will be celebrating fortieth anniversaries of such time-honored gatherings.
This weekend (October 13-16) Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Dunedin will host the Oll Fall Festival and Oktoberfest with midway rides, games, and a giant flea market. Click here for more information and directions.
The following weekend (October 20-23) Most Holy Redeemer in Tampa will continue the excitement, fostering an atmosphere of Christian community with an event that will be bigger and better than ever before. Celebrating forty fruitful years of faith, fun and fellowship, Most Holy Redeemer’s carnival will feature new rides, new food, new entertainment, and bingo with higher jackpots. Click here for more information and directions.
As Fr. Harris pointed out: the spirit of carnivals is integral to Christianity. Remembering blessings. Serving others. While these carnivals are typically fundraising events, so much more happens than raising funds. Faith comes to life as parishioners take on leadership roles to organize, as they serve all who attend with family and friends, as they set a loving example of gospel life for those who may not be a part of any faith community.
A parish carnival is a place of fellowship, for parishioners who connect with faith brothers and sisters while setting up concession stands, serving churros on the fairway and selling beautiful crafts and delicious baked goods in the parish center. Hispanic and English communities come together, sharing through cultural food such as scrumptious empanadillas and beef taquitas that are served beside such traditional American fare as hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries.
And there’s fun to be had by all. Church carnivals are places that encourage people to take time from busy lives to enjoy time with family and friends and revel in the blessings of the world God created.
God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)